There is a subtle way that we as women give away our power by refusing to say "no." For a long time my life sounded a lot like this:
Need someone to get the groceries? I can do it!
Need someone to cook for the event? I can do it!
Charity in need of free PR? I can do it!
Need someone to be the breadwinner? I can do that!
Need a revised resume? Oh, please choose me, me, me, me, me!
Yes, women, we can do anything we put our mind to, but we don't have to because we have the power of "no." As women, we are so often multitasking and willing to brag about our abilities (OMG, I ran myself ragged! Gold star!). People ask for our help, we think "that seems easy enough," and so we commit. We say yes in big and small ways to our partners, spouses, children, loved ones, strangers and business partners. Often times we say yes so often, that the last person on the list who gets a "yes" is me, myself and I. We end the days frazzled and exhausted, checking off a million boxes on our to-do list except the one titled "take care of self."
Not only was I saying yes in small and big ways to be "nice," but I was also living out a lifelong trend of giving away my joy, my power, myself to others (Ding, ding, ding! I will take co-dependency for $800, Alex!). An extension of this inability to say no to others was a deeply embedded inability to say yes to myself. It had become another form of distraction, another way to ignore my deepest desires.
Earlier in the year I had been excited when a friend sent me a referral for some paid blogging work. I thought, "Oh goody, some extra cash and eeee! See that vision board is paying off!" I spoke with the guy I was referred to, talked about how I could solve all his writing issues (cause, you know, that's what we do). Since I was referred by a friend, and this guy seemed skeptical, I offered to write a few hundred words on a specified topic to help him see my style. So I did that. I also sent him a price proposal, working my decade-long tricks of negotiation, "Well, what were you hoping to pay?" I thought it was a done deal, and was just waiting for the price to be agreed upon. Instead, he invited me to one of his events, which I attended with bells on. Before leaving, I stopped over to say goodnight, and asked one last time about the financial agreement to which he responded something along the lines of, "Don't worry about it, we will figure something out, OK, OK, OK."
I felt violated and pretty peeved. This guy was trying all of his manipulative tricks on me, and I am just sure he was doing it so that I would write for him for free. But the worst of it was that I realized I didn't even like the guy. I was angry at the situation, but my intuition was kicking in full force, and I was going to do something. I started by writing in my journal, to flesh out all the emotions that were arising from this interaction. I probably did not know at the time, but a huge piece of clarity arose for me. It went something like this: "If I was going to write or do any work for free, it was going to be for the things I wanted to express, the projects I wanted to bring into this world." Wow.
So I found my voice, the power of no. Instead of wasting more time, I crafted a diplomatic email stating that I just didn't have the time to help with his project. That was that. It felt weird. It felt kind of exhilarating. It felt like a big fat, piss off. But really, it was simply the power of no. By standing my ground in this one instance, I had not only said no to something I didn't want. I had said yes to something bigger, I had said yes to myself and what I wanted out of my life, what I wanted to contribute while I was here on this earth. That was in mid-April. By the end of May I had begun blogging -- on topics of my own choice -- for the Huffington Post (yay!). Little did I know that by August I would sign up for a 90-day novel writing course that would give me the support and structure I needed to finish the novel I had started years earlier (only 50 more days until "The End" Woot! Woot!).
You may think I am exaggerating, but saying no has a huge amount of power in it. The flip side of saying no to others is that you get to say yes to someone who is really important.. You. We all know women who are given the badge of saint; marching to their death as praised martyrs for everything they did on behalf of everyone else (my mother). For all those women out there, I would like to say: Thank you for your selfless giving to others. Thank you for what you have done for others, maybe even for me. But now, to heal myself and the generations that came before me and those that will come after, I am choosing to say no to that paradigm. Instead I am saying 'YES!' to myself, so that I may live the rest of my days marching toward a realization of the dreams, desires, and wishes of my heart. I believe I was put on this earth for a reason, and it wasn't to march to the bitter end, pooped out, pissed off, and wondering "What if?" What IF I had put myself first?